The Magic Life of the City



Neighborhood: Lower Manhattan

The Magic Life of the City
City Hall Park by Angel

It was a lousy and bleak first Sunday in May. I walked into City Hall Park, in my neighborhood, and Richard the gardener greeted me and introduced me to the other volunteers.

“Can I pull out the tulips?” I said to Richard. “ My knees are in bad shape and I’m afraid of making them worse by kneeling on them.” He replied, “Sure, do what’s best for you, no need to hurt yourself.” It began to pour as I walked over to the shocking pink and red tulips that were in the main garden. Richard said, “you don’t have to work in the rain, go home.” I said, “Richard, rain won’t hurt me.” I proceeded with my job of pulling up the tulips and I loved working in the rain and there was a perk in taking home as many tulips as I could carry. While I was knee deep in dirt, I briefly looked up at the tall buildings surrounding the park and was amazed at the contrast.

Just then the wind began to blow, and many of the pink cherry blossoms floated off the trees into the air and fell to the ground. I stood there feeling I was in the middle of pink snow. The blossoms covered everything including me, and I felt like a fairy princess. The garden maintenance workers were hurrying like crazy to clean up the blossoms, but they finally gave up because there were so many of them and they just kept coming. They were just trying to do their job, and I was loving the pink snow.

I proceeded with trying to get the bulbs out along with the tulips, but those bulbs wanted to stay in the ground. They were giving me a real hard time and not coming out so easily. Just then a man by the name of Rodrigo walked by and said, “may I have some of the tulips?” I said, “sure take as many as you like.” He told me that it was for his garden in Brooklyn and he said “I wasn’t even planning to walk through the park, but I decided it was shorter and here I am and look what I’ve found.” I asked him “do you work in the City?” He said, “no, but I used to. I worked at the World Trade Center. I was on the 27th floor when the attack happened.” There was silence. We looked into each other’s eyes. Just then the gardener walked over and began talking to Rodrigo and me. I shared with them that I was a healer and that I worked with a modality called Plant Spirit Healing and that I was totally in my element. Richard said, “you need to read The Magic Life of Plants. I’ll bring the book for you the next time we meet.” Richard showed me a piece of soil that was leftover from 9/ll, covered with dust and the dirt crumbling into more dust. Richard said, “I lost a lot of people in the WTC. There used to be a woman that would visit me frequently in the park. I would give her flowers from the garden. After the attack I stopped seeing her, and then her friend came by one day, and I asked her friend ‘where is your other friend?’ She said, ‘she was lost in the WTC.’" Chills ran up my spine and I looked into Richard’s eyes and there was more silence. He went off to do more gardening and I continued on with the tulips.

Just then a young couple came by on their bicycles. They spoke in a language I didn’t understand and they told me it was Czechoslovakian. They wanted some flowers for their garden in Long Island, so I asked them to join me in the garden and whatever bulbs they were able to root out, they could take home with them. They said “we came into NYC to go on the bike tour that is happening today, but we were stopped in the beginning of the tour because we weren’t wearing our helmets, so we decided not to waste the day and do some sightseeing on our bikes.” I said to them “this is the magic of the City. They smiled in full agreement and we continued on our work together. They stayed in the garden with me for an hour and then went on their way. Many more tourists came over to me. Some couldn’t speak English, but I knew what they wanted, and when I gave them some tulips their faces would light up. The entire park was lit up with these happy faces that had received the gift of flowers.

I worked in the garden for 3 hours and then it was time to leave. I exchanged good-byes, feeling exhausted, happy and full of joy. I came up to my apartment, dumped all of my dirty clothes in a pile, jumped into a hot shower, fell into bed and slept for 4 hours. When I awoke it was 4:30pm and I couldn’t believe how long I had slept, but my body felt rested and I got dressed and walked outside deciding what to eat for dinner.

Sherri Rosen has had her own publicity business in NYC for ll years. She’s a mom, writer, performer, interfaith minister, and singer. She’s missed City Hall Park since she moved to Harlem a year ago.

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